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Mr. MARCANTONIO. You were a drill mechanic, is that correct?
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Will you give us an idea of the nature of the work and the condition under which the drilling was done?
Mr. SKAGGs. This drilling in this silica rock in this tunnel was done by about 16 drills running night and day.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. That is quite a large number of drills for that kind of job, is it not? As a matter of fact, ordinarily, how many drills would be used for that kind of job, unless there was a special effort to speed up the work?
Mr. SKAGGS. I would say that, ordinarily, about 10 drills would be employed on such a job.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. But they were using 16 drills?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes; or a greater number. If they had kept these drills in good repair they would have used a greater number than that.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Please describe conditions in the tunnel while drilling was going on.
Mr. SKAGGS. They were very bad indeed. I had to go to work in this tunnel on account of my financial condition. The first day I went to work there I did not think I could remain.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Why not?
Mr. SKAGGs. The dust was so thick that one could not identify anybody he met when the man was only a few feet from him. Then there was a terrific noise, the danger of falling rock, explosions as a result of dynamite that was being touched off. It puts fear into a man and he at once came to the conclusion that he could not stay around there.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. A statement has been issued to the press, and I have read it, by some official of the contractor in this case, the contractor being Rinehart & Dennis, to the effect that the air down there in that tunnel was as clear as the air on Fifth Avenue in New York City. What have you to say about that?
Mr. Skaggs. That would be impossible, if there was no drilling going on. I have had some other underground experience, and I know that all underground passages contain impure air. I worked in the mines some, but I never worked in one that had a condition as bad as was the condition in this tunnel. The ventilation was not sufficient and the circulation was very poor. These drills were running and they created such a dust that the air was completely saturated with the dust. Again, gasoline locomotives were running in there. They had a steam locomotive running up into this tunnel that intensified the difficulty.
Mr. RANDOLPH. You are an engineer and are familiar with underground conditions in mining, and in general would you say that the conditions in that tunnel were caused by a natural situation or a lack of precautionary measures by the contractors?
Nr. SKAGgs. I would say the bad conditions were caused by a lack of precautionary measures by the contractor.
Mr. RANDOLPH. The conditions there were much worse than you feel they should have been in such an undertaking?
Mr. Skaggs. Yes; that is true.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Can you give us an idea of what you mean by “lack of precautionary measures by the contractor”?
Mr. Skaggs. The ventilation was not sufficient. While I was there they placed a fan too near the entrance to the tunnel. They used too small a vent tube. The fan would take up the dust and carry it back to the head. This fan made the situation worse than it would have been otherwise.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Do you think that the contracting firm had competent engineers to handle that situation, or were they given orders not to correct the abuses which, you say, existed?
Mr. SKAGgs. That is a matter of opinion, in my judgment.
Mr. RANDOLPH. I realize that, but you were an engineer. Were the engineers on that job competent to correct those abuses, in your opinion?
Mr. Skaggs. There were engineers there competent to correct those conditions; yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. As a matter of fact, would masks have helped any?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes, I think so.
Mr. SKAGGs. Not while I was working there. I never saw any at all.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. You said there were at least 16 drills in operation in this tunnel. Out of that number how many were wet and how many were dry?
Mr. SKAGGS. There were about six wet drills and the remainder were dry.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Was it necessary to have dry drills or could all of them have been wet?
Mr. SKAGGS. All of the drills could have been wet.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. If all of those drills had been wet would that have been helpful to all of the people employed in that tunnel?
Mr. SKAGGs. Yes; it would have changed the dust to mud. That mud would not have gotten into an air circulation.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Why did they not use 16 wet drills? Mr. SKAGGs. It would have taken longer to drill with wet drills.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. And it would have been more expensive to the contractor if they had used wet drills?
Mr. Skaggs. Yes.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. They did not give a darn for the welfare or even the lives of their employees?
Mr. SKAGGs. It seems that is true.
Mr. SKAGGs. The wet ones have to be connected with water supply, and they require manifold connections. The wet drills do not progress so rapidly.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. A wet drill costs more, does it not?
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Does a wet drill and a dry drill cost about the same?
Mr. SKAGGs. Yes, sir.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. The additional cost is involved by way of delay in performing the work? Mr. SKAGGS. Yes.
Mr. RANDOLPH. We have spoken about the company and its attitude through its engineering force. Were any regular inspections made by the West Virginia Bureau of Mines?
Mr. ŠKAGGS. No, sir; not while I was there. I never saw a mine inspector on the job.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did they make any inspections, to your knowledge!
Mr. Skaggs. I heard through others that they did, but I personally did not see any.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did they report the bad conditions to the contractor and ask him to correct them?
Mr. Skaggs. At the trial of these cases there were placed in evidence letters from Chief Lambie saying that this air was not sufficient.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. I wonder whether we could request you, Mr. Randolph, to obtain those court records for us.
Mr. GRISWOLD. I think the committee would be glad to have Mr. Randolph procure them if he can do so.
Mr. RANDOLPH. I should be glad to do anything I can to help. I think, however, that the Labor Committee itself could handle the matter better. I will assist in any practical way. I think if we act as a committee rather than as individuals, it will be better.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. From your own knowledge, or from knowledge obtained as the result of speaking with fellow workers, do you know of any system where the foremen inside the tunnel were forewarned of the approach or, rather, of the visit of mine inspectors?
Mr. SKAGGs. Only what I have heard. I heard that at the trial. The first trial.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Is that evidence that was introduced in court? Mr. SKAGGS. Yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. The evidence was that the foremen inside were forewarned when the mine inspectors were about to make an inspection of the tunnel?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes, sir; the evidence was that when the mine inspectors were about to come to the job the men running the gasoline motors would inform the foremen that the mine inspectors were coming.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. I understood you to say that when you were in the tunnel you were able to see only 10 feet in front of you?
Nr. SKAGGS. Yes, sir.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. About how many feet apart were the lights? Mr. SKAGGS. They would be at different distances.
Some were close to each other and some were farther away.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. If the contractors had compelled the employees to use all wet drills, would that have prevented a great deal of that dust?
Mr. SKAGGs. Yes; it would have prevented practically all of it.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. Practically all of the dust would have been prevented if the employers had used wet drills?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. And then that would have been a decent place instead of a hellish place within which to work?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes; if they had used all wet drills, there would nou, have been any dust to amount to anything
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Is there a law in the State of West Virginia which requires the using of wet drills ?
Mr. SKAGGS. I do not know what the law is.
Mr. Dunn of Pennsylvania. Was there any labor trouble in that tunnel; any trouble about wages paid the employees?
Mr. SKAGGS. No, sir; not while I was there.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Í notice that you have the same sort of wheeze in your breath that one of the other witnesses has, though it is not quite so pronounced. How long have you had that wheeze?
Mr. SKAGGS. Ever since I took sick in the tunnel.
Mr. GRISWOLD. What is that condition now compared to the way it was when you first acquired it?
Mr. Skaggs. It is worse now. When I first took the sick spell I was in pretty bad shape. It, however, cleared up, but now it has started again and it is getting worse. In one side of my chest I have severe pains that do not allow me to sleep a great deal of the time.
Mr. RANDOLPH. You were in good health when you started to work in this tunnel, were you?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes.
Mr. MARCANTONIO. Dry drilling is more economical from the standpoint of labor saving and time, is it not?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes.
Mr. DUNN of Pennsylvania. Wet drilling, as you believe, would have prevented much of this silicosis?
Mr. SKAGGS. Yes, sir.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Are there any further questions? [After a pause.) If not, we thank you kindly for coming before the committee.
STATEMENT OF ARTHUR PEYTON
Mr. GRISWOLD. Please give your name and residence to the re porter.
Mr. PEYTON. My name is Arthur Peyton, and I live at Glen Ferris, W. Va.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Did you at any time work in the Gauley Bridge Tunnel ?
Mr. PEYTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. PEYTON. I worked with the engineers of the New Kanawha Power Co.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Did you work right in the tunnel?
Mr. GRISWOLD. Go ahead and tell the committee about the conditions you found in the tunnel at the time you worked there.
Mr. PEYTON. When I worked there conditions were very bad indeed. The dust was very bad; the circulation of air was very poor; gasoline motors were employed there, and they put out an awful fume. The air was very hard to inhale.
Mr. GRISWOLD. When did you work there?
Mr. PEYTON. I worked all through the driving of the tunnel from 1930 to 1932.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Were you in the tunnel constantly-practically all of that time?
Mr. PEYTON. I was in there every day. I was in each heading 1 hour a day.
Mr. GRISWOLD. And how many headings were there?
Mr. GRISWOLD. Therefore you spent about 4 hours a day in the tunnel?
Mr. PEYTON. I did.
Mr. PEYTON. The dust was very bad indeed. Quite a few times it was very difficult to do the work we were supposed to perform on account of the dust.
Mr. GRISWOLD. Are you employed at the present time? Mr. PEYTON. Yes; I am employed at the present time by the State of West Virginia in a liquor store.
Mr. Griswold. Are you afflicted by silicosis?
Mr. RANDOLPH. Mr. Peyton, Mr. Skaggs, who preceded you, has spoken about the failure of the engineering corps of the contractors to provide precautionary measures to make the tunnel working conditions as good as possible; is that your feeling also ?
Mr. PEYTON. Yes, sir. The contractor for whom I worked, the New Kanawha Power Co., furnished us with respirators, but the men who were working with Rinehart & Dennis were not furnished with respirators. The men who work for Rinehart & Dennis were not afforded any precautionary measures to help.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did you have any conversation with any engineer representing the contracting firm of Rinehart & Dennis about conditions in the tunnel ?
Mr. PEYTON. Yes; I have talked to the foremen.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did any foreman admit to you that conditions in the tunnel were bad?
Mr. Peyton. Yes. They just laughed about it, though.
Mr. RANDOLPH. They did not take any measures to correct the conditions?
Mr. PEYTON. They did not.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Did the Bureau of Mines of the State of West Virginia go into that tunnel and make a report to Rinehart & Dennis that the conditions in the tunnel were not good!
Mr. PEYTON. Yes, sir; it did. The evidence was put in court in the case of Raymond Johnson and Donald Shea. Those cases were heard in the Fayette County court.